The Hobbit? It’s like seeing old friends.
Very, very old friends.
Almost half my lifetime has past since the smiles graced the lips of the victorious fellowship in the ending scenes of director Peter Jackson’s rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Return of the King. I sat in the seats of the movie theatre for the second time after my own pack of middle school friends bounced in to watch the final scenes unfold on the big screen. The Return of the King seems to end multiple times, fans bracing for the end of the journey with each blackened screen, glad when scenes continue to fade back in allowing just a few extra minutes with beloved characters. When the credits finally rolled in, my 6th grade girlfriends were not ready to let go. We left the theatre and filled the following months with tales of our very own fellowship and the most devoted among us wrote histories of our characters. We spent the end moments of our lunch and recess time up on the hill behind the middle school eventually finding our own ring of sorts, a leftover rubber poly dot forgotten in some distant gym class. Our fellowship of overeager, giddy tweens defended our treasure against the band of rabble sixth grade boys, our own brand of orc. That poly dot was important to us. We dog-piled, tackled, and ran hard sprints to protect it. One day after school hours, I even had my mother take me back to school to rescue it from behind the heater fence because the boys had casually tossed it there in an act of spite as the whistle rang to return to class earlier that day. There was even a tale of the time one of my friends whipped the poly dot out from inside the binder of our enemy all the way across the reading classroom to another member to seal an epic victory for our fellowship. But eventually the legends faded and the adventure of those recesses spent battling the enemy broke down to today’s safety conscious school systems, the guidance counselor defusing our imaginations by banning our battles and reducing them to two hand touch. (On an aside, I would expect nothing less from a school system who banned tag in the elementary schools.)
The fellowship disbanded, though I continued to write about my own character upon meeting another diehard with whom I would watch the extended editions, the inspiration of the stories continuing to cling to our souls. When that came to a close, I hung onto the tales by scrawling “Dear Nin-Parma,” or “my book” as the Elvish goes, as the opening to the journal entries documenting my own journeys. Nine years have passed since Return of the King. The battles and victories of my own life have been underway. I have since left the halls of my middle school, ventured through the playing fields of high school sports and classes, graduated from my high school and journeyed to college, leaving home for the first time, a feat always looming grimly ahead of me that I’m proud to have charged sword in hand (as well as love and Christ in heart) to declare my biggest victory to date.
The sights of Middle Earth during the premiere of The Hobbit last Thursday night at midnight, during the end of my first semester of Junior year at Messiah College, warmed the embers that the Lord of the Rings trilogy inspired so long ago. Amidst the business of finals week and residence hall checkouts, the weight of the unveiling of this prequel did not quite hit my spirit until the moments directly leading up to the trip to the theatre. Upon my second viewing tonight, my cousin put it best, it’s amazing that you are watching and there is more. After years of watching and re-watching familiar reels and mouthing the same scripts, you are given more. Enabled to dive deeper. The Hobbit fills viewers with what they originally fell in love with. Familiar scores, scenes, faces and the same breath that enlivens spirits to some greater purpose beyond oneself, in sync with the inkling author’s own relationship with the divine. The epic motif of light versus dark permeates the movie when trolls find their defeat as dawn breaks and the cohort of dwarves defeats the goblins in the refuge of sunlight. Even the light from the fires of the pinecones provide protection from the pale orc and his minions.
The familiar scenes of the Shire tug the hearts of the audience right away and the meeting of the great overseers of Middle Earth alludes to the impending adventures, an excellent precursor that bridges the new tale to its forerunners. Following the meeting of Elrond, Saruman, Gandalf and the Lady of Lorien, the elf maiden asks Gandalf, why Bilbo?, and his response is of the breed of the monologues from the Lord of the Rings that caused those deeps stirrings many years ago. “Saruman,” he says, “believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”
I forgot the momentum of Tolkien’s divine inspiration breathed into his fantasy and am once again enlivened by his tales. I have had nine years of the everyday deeds of ordinary folk. What were my small acts of kindness and love? The Hobbit, and its familiar faces, asks us to look back. Yes, look back at the origins of an inspiring favorite, but also to look back at our own lives and see where our journey has led in the meantime. It calls us not to lose sight of the epic adventure ahead and invites us back into the tale to find our roots so that we too can engage in the combat of the ordinary folk that keeps darkness at bay.
The Hobbit, you ask?
Like seeing old friends.